Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Knock on Wood by Barbara Quinn

When my husband and I sit down to dinner at night, we eat in our kitchen with all its modern trappings. There’s an indoor grill and pretty pendent lighting. Large windows look out to a deck and woods beyond. The double ovens come in very handy at the holidays.

In the middle of this new kitchen sits an old oak table and four chairs. I've never seen another set like it. It is the heart of my kitchen. I’ve been eating at that table since I was a child. My parents bought the table after WW2. In fact, I don’t remember a time when I didn’t eat at that table. It moved with my family from our two bedroom apartment in the Bronx to our three bedroom one bath ranch in Yonkers, where when I went to college it was replaced by a larger table, and was relegated to the basement for extra seating at the holidays. For some reason my parents painted the lovely oak white and green. That poor table.

After I married, the table and its four chairs came to me. My husband and I worked hard for weeks stripping off the paint and restoring the wood, then staining it dark. We grew to know every inch of that table with its carvings of flowers on the sides, and its self-storing leaf that pops up when you pull on the ends. There’s one spot that we didn’t finish quite right, and I’ve grown to love that imperfection. Each sturdy chair has three elongated 0’s that make up the seat backs. The seats themselves are fabric and I’ve covered them with dozens of different patterns over the years. All it takes is a staple gun and I have four new chairs.

Many nights when I sit down to eat, the parade of the past moves by: my brother and myself as kids, my son and his friends playing, my dog roaming beneath looking for treats, the guinea pigs racing round its legs. It’s good to have something solid like this in my life, something that anchors me to more than the daily routines of life, something that shares the tears and joys. I am thankful for all the time I’ve spent at my old table and glad that my family still gathers in the kitchen on the holidays and surrounds it. Life goes on. My kitchen smells of home and safety. And I am grateful.

9 comments:

Angie Ledbetter said...

That table is a great family treasure. An anchor to the past and a jet pack to the future.

Kathryn Magendie said...

How lovely! Family heirlooms facinate me - maybe because I don't have any -other than my Maw Maw's lamp, and a quilt my granny made for my brother who passed away before he could claim it - it came to me and I cherish it.

My hb has a few family heirlooms and I love the history behind them.

Barbara Quinn said...

Angie, I'm laughing at the jet pack. I really could use one.

Kat, Hey, you might not have many physical objects, but you have that holy grail of a blackberry cobbler recipe!

Patresa Hartman said...

wow. what a treasure! it makes me think about how porous wood is, and all the stories that table has absorbed. all the energy. awesome.

Barbara Quinn said...

p, yes, if that table could talk...I'd have to turn it into firewood!

Anonymous said...

Firewood huh. The heirlooms in my parents house do not seem as old as they used to. Hopefully our boys caught some of the family history from both sides of ours. Great places to grow up and learn everyday.
Oren

Barbara Quinn said...

Oren, I bet your boys will surprise you one day with all the family stories you didn't know they remembered. They're like sponges absorbing everything in their path. Those stories are the best heirlooms of all.

Ami said...

This post made me tear up. Your love for this table, the way it anchors you to your past, is something I envy. I've been looking for the perfect dining set and nothing has caught my fancy. Now I know why. This is what I'm looking for. Not that cheaply made, contemporary stuff that will fall apart before I'm 40, but something sturdy and strong, that will stand the tests of time and be there when my child (if I'm so blessed) sits down to dinner with his/her family 30 years from now.

Barbara Quinn said...

Ami, The hunt for your table will become part of it's history and charm, part of your family story. You'll know the right one when you find it! Enjoy the search and the company of those you dine with.

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